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Nikon D5100 Digital Camera Review$799.00
Kit Lens & Mount
The Nikon D5100 makes use of the same bayonet Nikon F mount that Nikon has been employing, in one for or another, for decades. Like most entry-level Nikons from the last few years, the major factor limiting lens selection is not the mount, but the lack of a drive motor for autofocus. There are dozens of Nikon lenses that will mount successfully on the D5100, but many will not autofocus or meter properly. AF-S and AF-I lenses will work fine, AF-P lenses will not be able to use 3D Matrix Metering II, non-CPU lenses will not meter at all, and type G and D AF lenses will not autofocus on the D5100.
The D5100’s 16.2-megapixel sensor has been rumored to be the same as the D7000, and all our testing bears out that conclusion. This Sony-designed APS-C image sensor is among the best we have tested for a camera of this type, and it makes the D5100 an incredibly compelling purchase at a price point under $1000, combining superb color accuracy with great low light results.
Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared
There are always a ton of considerations that come into play when comparing cameras, and a sensor is merely one of them. That being said, the D5100 benefits greatly from having what plenty of people are calling the best APS-C sensor to hit the market yet. Sure, it will certainly be beaten out in the next year or two, but getting this kind of image performance out of a camera that costs less than $1000 certainly demands attention.
There are few surprises with the viewfinder on the D5100, as it is a fairly typical eye-level pentamirror viewfinder, with 95% coverage and a 0.78x magnification. It’s got a very comfortable rubber eyecup and is pleasant to shoot with. The main drawback of the viewfinder is its relatively limited diopter adjustment range of -1.7 to +0.7 m1, but Nikon sells nine different adjusters that can be used in place of the stock eyepiece.
When quickly listing the difference between the D5100 and the previous D5000, the LCD is top of the list. While the D5000 featured an articulating LCD, it swung away from the body vertically, interfering with most tripod designs. The D5100 remedies this by borrowing inspiration from the Canon 60D/T3i and having the LCD swing to the side of the body. This not only prevents the screen from hitting the tripod, it also allows the screen to face forward, toward the subject.
The display itself is a 3-inch LCD display with a 921k-dot resolution. With the screen’s ability to swing away from the body, the screen’s 170-degree angle of view really allows users to get a shot from just about any angle. This is especially a boon to the camera’s video functionality, as it allows framing from some rather extreme angles.
Whether clicking the LCD into the body or into its fully-out position, the screen clicks confidently into place. The hinge does not feel cheap or loose in any way. There are tabs on the top and bottom of the LCD to provide a finger-hold for when drawing the screen away from the body.
The D5100 features a built-in flash with a guide number of 39 feet, or 12 meters. This can be extended somewhat with the manual flash. The D5100 has a flash sync speed of just 1/200s, same as the D5000 and D90, but slightly slower than the D7000.
The D5100 allows for the flash to fire in front-curtain, rear-curtain, red-eye reduction, slow sync, and red-eye reduction with slow sync modes. There is also a flash compensation setting of -3 to +1 EV, which can be altered in either 1/3 or 1/2 stops.
The D5100 sports a variety of inputs and outputs on its body. For videographers, the D5100 has both an HDMI output and 3.5mm stereo mic input, though it cannot output HDMI video while recording 1080/30p or 1080/25p video. It also features a GPS input and a combined AV/USB port, using a proprietary connection. These are all hidden behind a thicker rubber flap than on previous SLRs, which satisfyingly clicks into place, out of the way of the articulating LCD.
The Nikon D5100 uses the EN-EL14 battery from Nikon, with a CIPA rating of approximately 660 shots. This is the same battery as the lower-end D3100, though it was only rated for 550 shots on that camera. There does not seem to be any plans for a first-party battery grip—holding with recent Nikon tradition for consumer-level DSLRs—though we would assume the market will correct this eventually.
The D5100 can make use of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, with a single memory card slot on the right side of the body. There is little special here, as this is the same configuration used on just about all of Nikon’s non-CF consumer-level bodies for the past few years.